A Paul Chow hat-trick, his 12th for the club, was the highlight of an entertaining match at Hillheads in which Whitley Bay deservedly beat Sunderland RCA 5-2 on Tuesday evening.
It was Bay’s fourth consecutive win on home territory, and if their away form was only half as good, they would have a much healthier league position.
While neutrals in the crowd would have enjoyed the feast of goals, the defending by both sides was at times less than top quality, doing nothing for the blood pressure of both management teams.
Whitley went into the game without the injured Callum Anderson, while Tom Kindley and Leon Ryan were both unavailable. New signing Robert Nolan made his debut while former Bay keeper Josh Carmichael was in the Sunderland line-up.
The home side were soon putting pressure on the RCA defence, and when Jarrett Rivers tormented the visitors with a mazy run towards goal from out on the right, he was brought down by a clumsy challenge from Philip Horsman and referee Paul Curry had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Chow fired low into the corner, easily beating Carmichael to give Whitley a tenth minute lead.
The keeper, who spent a short spell at Hillheads at the start of the season, was not looking assured and his hesitancy provided Whitley with their second goal seven minutes later.
Failing to act quickly enough to clear the ball near the edge of the 18-yard box, he was dispossessed by Rivers who slotted the ball into the empty net from 15 yards out.
With confidence levels boosted by the excellent start, Whitley created several more chances before half-time.
Brad Brooking raced through from midfield but failed to produce a strong enough finish, while Nolan almost scored on his debut when he turned inside the penalty area and fired the ball only inches over the bar.
Another penalty appeal for a foul on Rivers was waved away.
Sunderland had gained more of a foothold in the game by this stage and seven minutes before the interval they pulled a goal back when Callum Hassan poked home the rebound after Jonny Ball had done well to make a point blank save from Gavin Barton.
The second half began with Whitley quickly out of their blocks and Nolan showed great pace as he burst clear but Carmichael made a good save at the expense of a corner.
Whitley kept up the momentum and regained their two-goal advantage five minutes into the half when Brian Smith, deputising for Ryan in the centre of defence, rose to power home a tremendous header from Paul Antony’s corner.
Not for the first time this season, Whitley appeared to switch off after scoring and within a minute they conceded a second goal as substitute Kyle Fryatt took advantage of sloppy defending to keep RCA in the game.
Chow then saw a shot blocked by Carmichael’s legs but on the hour Nolan, who had impressed with his pace and with a little more luck might well have got on the score sheet, twisted an ankle and had to hobble off the field for treatment, with Andy Robertson taking his place.
Nervousness began to creep into Whitley’s play, their lack of confidence evident following recent defeats and their inability to retain a two-goal cushion.
Ball made a good save to deny Harrison and there was a period when neither side seemed able to retain possession, Whitley giving the ball away in defence while the visitors were unable to capitalise.
Midway through the half, Chow had two chances to extend the lead, firing just wide on the first occasion then bringing a block by Carmichael before the ball was cleared.
It was only in the final two minutes that Whitley and their fans could relax when captain Chow got the fourth goal, latching on to a through ball from Robertson and slipping it past the advancing keeper.
Then in stoppage time the pair combined again, this time Robertson crossing from the left across the face of goal where Chow neatly side-footed the ball home for a well deserved hat-trick.
The last two goals may have come late in the game but the final score was a fair reflection of Whitley’s dominance over a disappointing RCA side.
The result certainly put the smiles back on the faces of Bay players and fans alike and it is to be hoped that with two more home games in the next seven days, Whitley can put more points on the board.
Whitley Bay: Ball, Brooking, Novak, Reid, B Smith, McFarlane, Fawcett (Buzzeo 80 mins), Antony, Nolan (Robertson 60 mins), Cow, Rivers (C Smith 74 mins).